Well, here we are. It’s 2017, yet we’re clearly heading “back to the future.”
I began political writing in the early days of the Iraq War. I felt it was my duty, especially as a veteran, to stand up and make my voice heard, to try and stop the unfolding disaster. I retired my pen years later, when it appeared that it was finally over.
Clearly, that optimism was unjustified. In the wake of this week’s attack on Syria, we’ve been forced to endure the same old neocons spouting the same lies on the same news outlets. This is, of course, yet more evidence that in contemporary America, the ruling class is never held accountable for anything. In 2008, the banking elite looted the financial system and nearly collapsed the world economy, and no one of any prominence was punished in any significant way. In 2003, our political leaders spewed waves of deliberately falsified propaganda in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Thousands of our soldiers died, a million Iraqis perished, and trillions of dollars were wasted. Yet no one was ever held liable for what they had done.
So here we are. Our leaders have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. We stand at the brink of a conflict with nuclear-armed Russia for…what? It’s hard to say, since our leaders have given up even bothering to concoct reasons why their policies should be in any way relevant to the well-being of the American people. They regard the notion as almost an insult.
As for the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib, I see only three possibilities:
- The Syrian Air Force dropped bombs on a rebel weapons depot that was being used to store chemical munitions. Some of the gas was released in the explosions, killing civilians in the area. This is the Russian explanation, and it is a sound one.
- The attack was a false flag, either faked entirely or the result of a deliberate release of the gas by the rebels to elicit sympathy for their cause. The rebels have staged false flag operations before, so we cannot discount this explanation entirely.
- Assad decided to use chemical weapons on the rebels in a militarily insignificant operation, even though he is winning the war and the only real difference such an attack could make would be to bring American intervention against him (which is what happened). Some are claiming that he may have had arcane motives related to the upcoming peace conference (to prevent a Russian-American deal to divide Syria), but this is sketchy. He would be risking Russian wrath and an American attack. Such a maneuver might literally snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I give these scenarios a 90%, 9% and 1% probability, respectively.
But it is worthwhile noting that the American establishment has been itching to intervene in the Syrian war for years, even without such “justifications.” Putting too much weight on these alternatives is probably a mistake. They don’t really care very much about the actual deaths in that chemical incident. It was never more than a pretext to do what they wanted to do anyway.
As we sift through the evidence and try to make sense of this all, it’s important to keep a few more ideas in mind.
First, Assad and his people will never give up. He is an Alawite. His coalition includes Christians, Druze, Kurds, and people from other minorities (along with more than a few secular Sunnis). These people know what will happen if the fanatics of ISIS and al Qaeda win. They will get the same treatment that the Yazidi people received in Iraq when ISIS overran their villages. The men were killed, and the women were turned into sex slaves.
How do you make peace with such people?
And the idea that America’s preferred rebel groups are “moderate” and can be trusted to run a civilized Syria after Assad’s defeat is purely delusional – a gamble that Assad is unwilling to try (would you?).
The rebels have a slogan: Christians to Lebanon and Alawites to the ovens. That is not a positive indicator that post-war Syria will be comparable to Vermont.
We might also ask ourselves what our own government would do in circumstances similar to Assad’s. What if an army of ISIS fanatics was fighting its way through Virginia and threatening to overthrow the government in Washington DC? What if the only way the government could stop them was to use chemical weapons?
Would they do it?
Of course they would. The US government would gas them like bugs (remember, our government has used WMDs before. Nagasaki? Hiroshima?).
So who are we to judge Assad?
It may be a quaint idea, but there are also legal issues. Syria did not attack us, and was not threatening to do so (a far better case could be made that the rebels – al Qaeda and ISIS – are the real threats). Furthermore, we attacked Syria without a UN resolution, making the whole affair a violation of international law. And don’t bother mentioning American law. None of the legal and constitutional requirements were followed in this matter (the Constitution is effectively dead, killed, ironically, by those who insisted it was a “living document”).
The entire affair was lawless, essentially a rogue operation.
So whose side should America be on? What can we really hope to accomplish?
In my opinion, we should stay out of the conflict entirely. In nearly every way, Syria has the potential to become another Iraq, with the added peril of nuclear exchange added to the mix.
We are in dangerous territory, and we can only organize, speak out, and hope that cooler heads somehow prevail.